Why the Ivy League isn’t getting fair NCAA Tournament consideration

Princeton coach Mitch Henderson was asked after the Tigers’ 73-62 win over Yale Saturday night by Asbury Park Press college basketball writer Jerry Carino what it says about the NCAA’s system for selecting NCAA Tournament teams that there’s no hope for an at-large Ivy League bid.

“These guys signed up knowing we’ve got to win the league and we’ve got to win the [Ivy League] Tournament,” Henderson said.

Perhaps Henderson was trying to be politically correct or keep his team’s focus on winning the Ivy tourney. But the discussion about a two-bid Ivy is far from closed.

Let’s start with Ivy women’s basketball.

In 2016, before the Ivy League Tournament was implemented, both Ivy title-winning Penn and runner-up Princeton received bids. Last year, Columbia was reportedly the last team out of the Big Dance as an at-large bid.

The Princeton men currently sit at No. 53 in the NET rankings. Princeton lost narrowly in December (74-70) at what was at the time a 7-2 St. Joseph’s squad. If Princeton had won that game, its NET would be in the 46-48 range.

Let’s look at some teams which, according to bracketology guru Joe Lunardi, sit on the proverbial bubble.

Butler of the Big East is considered to be in the tourney at an NET of 57. Seton Hall is a bubble team at No. 63 and lost to Rutgers, a team which Princeton defeated in November. Memphis of the AAC sits at No. 86 and is also deemed to be on the bubble.

Princeton seemingly has been turned down for games by virtually every power conference team on the east coast.

Carino watched the Yale-Princeton game from press row and afterward said in a tweet that Princeton is better than ”most Big East and Big Ten teams I’ve seen this season.” Carino is a beat writer for both Seton Hall and Rutgers, so he has seen most of them.


The selection process is seriously flawed with an overemphasis on analytics.

Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell, after his team defeated Northwestern this month, decried the use of analytics.

”This KenPom guy, I’ve got to recruit, because this guy’s got every answer to everything, Pikiell said, per Carino’s reporting.

How can an Ivy such as Princeton, Yale or Cornell have a strong NET if no one will play them? Seton Hall, St. John’s, Boston College, UConn, Providence and scores of other east coast schools reportedly have turned down games against the top Ivies.

I articulated these concerns in December via email to  NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee chair and Southwestern Athletic Conference commissioner Charles McClelland.

“We will take your comments and concerns seriously and hope to produce the best bracket possible,” McClelland replied.

We’ll see.

7 thoughts on “Why the Ivy League isn’t getting fair NCAA Tournament consideration”

  1. Two of the top 3 deserve a bid. Henderson also stated that the current NCAA Tournament situation of the Ivy League “stinks,” hardly a politically correct observation. Three teams beat the Tigers in league play last season, Yale did it twice. We all know what happened after that.

  2. Richard, I appreciate your continued highlighting of this issue. Indeed, the Ivy League gets a bum deal from the NCAA and that has been true for decades. There is, however, one significant consolation in this equation and that is simply that it allows the Ivy League (and other peer conferences like the Patriot) to stand apart from all the corruption and lack of integrity infusing the power conferences and big-time college sports in general. In addition, it makes it all the sweeter when an Ivy team rises up and takes down one of the big programs. Like you, I would prefer to get more equal treatment, but there’s a part of me that continues to savor the standing apart quality that comes with with operating outside the corrupt system that is run by the power conferences.

  3. Thank you for staying on this theme, Richard. The self-important conventional wisdom-setting “bracketologists” won’t even throw the Ivies a bone by including any of the league’s teams in their “first four out” or “next four out” and instead continue to stock their lists of “bubble teams” with mediocre squads from the so-called power conferences (St. John’s, for Pete’s sake!). I had hoped that Princeton’s Sweet Sixteen run would earn a little respect but I guess that was naive.

    • I’ve written to the entire Selection Committee and have tried to articulate a position in which the committee takes into account schedule woes,which are real and documented.

  4. I reached out to the entire selection committee with actual facts and names of schools who won’t play Ivies. You can’t get an enhanced NET if no one will play you. It’s absurd.

  5. Since it became a big business, the selection of teams has always been corrupt. The so called mid majors have never got a fair shake. Every rule change, every tweak to how they select teams favors the power conferences. The money must go to the right places. It is a sad state of affairs. To be positive, you can thank the great Pete Carill. If Princeton had not taken Georgetown to the wire, the Ivy League was losing their automatic bid. When your league almost beats a one seed, when you have the highest rated game on ESPN, even the powers that be, can not ignore. Yale and Princeton would both be worthy NCAA teams. One will go. They will no doubt get both a ridiculous seed and even worse draw. When big money is involved, evil lurks. Until they get people who truly know who the best teams are, the draw will be both imperfect and likely slanted toward or biased against others. The others are ALWAYS those who are not from a power five school. It is a sad state of affairs.

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